Tuesday, September 06, 2005

College football - Week One thoughts/Week Two preview

We're combining what will normally be two separate entries this week. I'm out of town Tuesday through Sunday (Green Bay for a company seminar and then Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a UMD football game on Saturday), so you won't hear from me again until after Week Two.

First up is our Week One review.

Full disclosure
So you won't think I'm pulling these thoughts out of you-know-where, here is a list of games I saw at least half of this weekend.

--> Minnesota at Tulsa
--> Arizona at Utah
--> Bowling Green at Wisconsin (also saw parts of Miami-tOSU, TCU-Oklahoma, and Rutgers-Illinois)
--> Northern Illinois at Michigan
--> Colorado State at Colorado
--> Georgia Tech at Auburn
--> UCLA at San Diego State
--> West Virginia at Syracuse
--> Louisville at Kentucky
--> Virginia Tech at North Carolina State
--> UNLV at New Mexico
--> Mississippi at Memphis
--> Miami at Florida State

Impressions on last week
Thoughts on games I actually watched, and some that I didn't.

--> Minnesota at Tulsa. Laurence Maroney. 'Nuff said. One point worth mentioning here is that the Gophers actually averaged less than four yards per rush after Maroney's big runs. They'll need to be more consistent, because not everyone is going to yield two 60-plus yard runs in the first quarter.
--> Arizona at Utah. What was Mike Stoops thinking? He has the ball in Utah territory, and punts on fourth and reasonably short late in the game??? Utah has a long way to go. Then again, no one said replacing Alex Smith would be easy.
--> Bowling Green at Wisconsin. If you would have told me beforehand that Bowling Green would rack up 500-plus yards of offense and score 42 points, I wouldn't have bothered to watch. Somehow, the Badgers put up a good month's worth of offense in one game on Saturday, while Brian Calhoun (250 rush yards, 5 TD, Big Ten OPOTW) showed himself to be a more-than-adequate replacement for Anthony Davis. We didn't see John Stocco throw much, but he actually looked pretty good when he was doing it, except for one bad decision (more a late throw than a bad decision, I guess). And give the defense credit. They only allowed seven points in the second half after Omar Jacobs lit them up for 35 in the first half.
--> TCU at Oklahoma. Wow. When I said OU was overrated, I didn't think they'd come crashing to Earth like this. Listen, TCU has a good football team. If Tye Gunn can stay healthy for 11 games, they have a chance to make some serious noise in the Mountain West. But I don't believe for one millisecond that this would have happened if OU had everything working properly. This happened because of what I warned you about...OU lost too much skill-position and offensive line talent to simply "reload" and be ready for the season, and TCU was the worst possible opponent for such a season opener. They're a blitz-happy team on defense that is looking to atone for a terrible season in 2004 (TCU finished 5-6 despite scoring 30 points per game).
--> Northern Illinois at Michigan. It seemed like Michigan was more intent on not showing anything than they were on laying the wood to NIU. With that in mind, however, the Wolverines do need to shore up the run defense. Garrett Wolfe is good, but he shouldn't have been able to run like he did for much of this game. I love Henne and Hart, and they're only getting better. So as much as I detest Michigan, it looks like they're ready for Notre Dame, and that makes me happy.
--> Boise State at Georgia. D.J. Shockley may be the Tee Martin to David Greene's Peyton Manning. You know...the QB that follows up the longtime starter who couldn't win the national title and leads his team to a national title. Georgia was very impressive against a good team on Saturday, though I don't think Boise matches up with the top dogs of the SEC quite yet.
--> Notre Dame at Pittsburgh. Damn. Suddenly, Notre Dame is dangerous again. Either that, or Dave Wannstedt is a bigger idiot than we gave him credit for in the NFL. Maybe it's a little of both. Charlie Weis really had his team ready to play, and you could tell that he was prepared for his first outing as a head coach.
--> Georgia Tech at Auburn. For at least one game, Tech fans needn't fear Reggie Ball. He was good on Saturday, and he did it against a tough defense in a very hostile environment. Auburn has issues at QB, especially when you consider that the SEC has a number of teams that should be good on offense...certainly good enough to outscore the Tigers if they play like they did Saturday.
--> UCLA at San Diego State. The ESPN2 sideline reporter asked SDSU coach Tom Craft why Maurice Drew was so hard for the Aztecs to contain. His response? "He's good." That pretty much sums it up. Drew is good.
--> West Virginia at Syracuse. Syracuse's defense was nearly as good as I thought it would be. They forced turnovers left and right and held WVU to 13 points (two more came on a safety). But Syracuse's offense was much worse than advertised, as they couldn't do much of anything right. Like Oklahoma and Memphis (keep reading), 'Cuse shows us that an elite RB can't do it all by himself. Damien Rhodes is powerless to get this team in the end zone with such a bad offensive line and no semblance of a passing game.
--> Louisville at Kentucky. What looked like a beatdown early turned into a close game. Bobby Petrino needs to use this game as a teaching tool to get his team to develop a killer instinct. Meanwhile, if UK QB Andre Woodson can learn to protect the football in traffic, the Wildcats may be a bit better than advertised. That's to say that they might be better than Vanderbilt.
--> Virginia Tech at NC State. I know he had his issues, but Marcus Vick looked pretty good. So did counterpart Jay Davis, who moved his team at times against a very tough defense. The Hokies came from behind in a loud stadium, and Vick showed some poise. I think they'll end up being very good, though I freely admit I may have them too high, even after moving them down a little bit.
--> Mississippi at Memphis. We all love that DeAngelo Williams stayed in school for one more year. But it's hard not to question the wisdom of that decision after watching the Tigers' offense sputter all over the field on Monday. Turnovers and bad QB play killed Memphis, and Ed Orgeron gets a win in his head-coaching debut.
--> Miami at Florida State. Somehow, these two teams managed to play an uglier, sloppier game than they did last year. Drew Weatherford was positively awful, but Kyle Wright had a couple early picks, and Miami missed two field goals early before a bad snap and botched hold ruined a potential game-tying kick in the final minutes. I guess that's justice for kicking-tortured FSU, but the game was torture for all of us watching. Neither team looked like a title contender, though it was clear to me that Miami was the better team, especially once Wright calmed down a bit in the second quarter.

Viewing plans this week
This week will be difficult, because I am going to be gone a lot. However, I will probably see bits and pieces, at least, of the following games, either live or via VHS:

--> Oklahoma State at Florida Atlantic
--> Pittsburgh at Ohio
--> Kansas State at Marshall
--> Notre Dame at Michigan
--> Colorado State at Minnesota
--> Iowa at Iowa State
--> Texas at Ohio State

The picks
Last week: 14-8
Season: 14-8

Blame it on time constraints, but we won't spend as much time on game picks this week as we did last week. Since there really aren't any compelling games on Thursday or Friday, we'll start with Saturday's Big Ten games, and then touch on other games of interest.

Saturday, September 10
Temple at Wisconsin--> Even if Wisconsin doesn't run for 400 yards, they'll win.
The pick: Wisconsin

Notre Dame at Michigan--> In the Big House, it won't be as easy as it was at Heinz Field. Michigan will be more aggressive than they were in South Bend a year ago. It won't be 38-0 like the last Ann Arbor game, but will be a decided win for Michigan.
The pick: Michigan

Cincinnati at Penn State--> Cincy's QB looked okay a week ago, but that was Eastern Michigan.
The pick: Penn State

Akron at Purdue--> I'd like the Boilers even if Charlie Frye were still around. I just can't see Akron scoring enough points to win this game without Frye. Purdue passes their first post-Orton test.
The pick: Purdue

San Jose State at Illinois--> Zook got his boys to rally past Rutgers, something that no Big Ten team should ever have to do at home. If they have to rally past the Spartans, we'll know there is a problem.
The pick: Illinois

Colorado State at Minnesota--> Maroney should easily top 175 yards in this game, provided he gets the ball enough. It's another game that the Gophers can win without a big game from Cupito.
The pick: Minnesota

Hawaii at Michigan State--> MSU is no USC, but Hawaii's defense needs some serious work. Jerry Glanville would be really upset if he hadn't taken this job to rescue himself from the head-coaching position at Division II Northern State (S.D.), where he was a finalist.
The pick: Michigan State

Iowa at Iowa State--> Great rivalry. Lately, it's been more competitive. This year, it features a top team against a team that wants to be considered one of the elite. Even at home, I don't think ISU has enough to pull the shocker.
The pick: Iowa

Northern Illinois at Northwestern--> The Wildcats looked pretty good in beating on Ohio U., but I think NIU is ready to get an upset win over a Big Ten team.
The pick: Northern Illinois

Nicholls State at Indiana--> Could it be? IU at 2-0??
The pick: Indiana

Texas at Ohio State--> I picked this game two months ago, and I'm sticking with it. tOSU's play on Saturday against Miami (much better than I expected), only increases my confidence in them.
The pick: tOSU

South Carolina at Georgia--> Hard to pick against the homestanding 'Dawgs after what they did to Boise. Spurrier will have The Other USC ready to play, but it won't be enough.
The pick: Georgia

Boise State at Oregon State--> Boise wants to atone for a horrible performance in Athens, and a retooled Oregon State team looks like a good target. But the Beavers will get it done behind an improved defense.
The pick: Oregon State

Wake Forest at Nebraska--> The Cornhuskers were sleepwalking last week against Maine. At least, for their sake, I hope they were.
The pick: Nebraska

Southern Mississippi at Alabama--> I won't be sold on Alabama's offense until I see them racking up points. That might not happen this week, so the Tide will have to roll with their defense.
The pick: Alabama

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